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Written by Erik Sargent

What does one do when a violent storm is barreling toward you, your home, and the community you live in? This was the question that residents in much of Southeast Texas and all of Florida have recently had to answer, as both regions were hit by severe hurricane damage in the first two weeks of September.

For the state of Texas, it was Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 hurricane that had winds reaching speeds upwards of 130 mph, causing catastrophic flooding throughout many regions of Southeast Texas. In Florida, it was Hurricane Irma, another Category 4 hurricane that completely wiped out islands in the Atlantic Ocean, and had a death toll of 80, according to World Vision.

Outside of the area, the damage you see on television is only a fraction of what happened, and only gives you a small scope of how severe these storms were. For those living in the area, the nightmare was all too real, and the hurricanes completely changed the lives of millions.

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“I’ve told reporters in the past, it’s really tough to describe the damage because television doesn’t do it justice,” said Convoy of Hope National Spokesperson Jeff Nene. “When you drive through the areas and you see the destruction, then it becomes real. But there really isn’t any way to describe it because of the massiveness.”

For Nene and Convoy of Hope, they are one of numerous organizations who are built for helping these areas rebuild and get people back on their feet after being hit with a natural disaster. Convoy of Hope was founded in 1994, and they have since served more than 80 million people through various charitable endeavors.

With the recent string of hurricanes to hit the United States, they were out in full-force, and were employing some of their best tactics to help the people in the areas affected.

Preparing for the hit

“Something that is really interesting and something people don’t think about a lot is that hurricanes are – in some ways – the easiest disaster to respond to, because you have a little bit of a warning and you can see them coming,” Nene said.

It’s this mindset that allows an organization like Convoy of Hope to be prepared both in terms of staff, and the people they will partner with. They have an operation center located in Springfield, M.O., where they can monitor oncoming hurricanes and develop project plans for relief efforts.

The operation center is in contact with emergency management at the state and federal levels of the areas, and they coordinate how they are going to get to designated areas, which area is safest to camp out in, and how they will deploy and help once the storms have passed.

“With a hurricane, what we try to do is go in early,” Nene said. “We were very successful during Hurricane Katrina, which was one of the first times we tried this technique, and it worked very well this time with Hurricane Harvey in Texas. What we do is get there before the storm and get to the Southeast side of where we think it’s going to hit, then we’ll go from there.”

Logistical planning is vital to the entire operation, and allows the designated relief teams to stay safe from potential damage from hurricanes, and also allows them to immediately deploy and begin helping.

“We were able to come in and start the distribution of food and supplies almost immediately this time in Texas,” Nene said.

Picking the right starting points for effective relief

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Tackling hurricane relief requires intense preparation and organization, and it’s important the teams who are going in to help have a plan of what they want to do so they can act quickly. For Convoy of Hope, this starts with two main areas of focus, and they implement these phases in strategic order.

“The first step for us is emergency supplies,” Nene said. “Food, water, and hygiene-type items, and we try to get these in there right off the bat. We focus on this for the first week at least, sometimes longer.”

The type of food provided to people is food that doesn’t need to be cooked, doesn’t need to be preserved, and can basically prepared with no other ingredients. This can be anything such as snacks, cereal, and other dry types of food.

From there, it turns into more of the cleaning aspect of the hurricane relief, and helping to improve the sanitation of the areas that have been hit.

“The second phase usually takes place as the power starts to come back on and people have gotten through the phase of staying alive,” Nene said. “The second phase is beginning with clean up, and we start changing the product mix. We still do some of the food and water, but we start adding things like cleaning supplies, bleach, trash bags and cans, shovels, rakes – those types of products. The other thing we do is put together teams of volunteers that will go into neighborhoods to help with cleanup.”

These teams of volunteers range from eight to 15 people, and they try to tackle tasks in certain areas one by one. Convoy of Hope has their own staff of people they send, but a major part of their relief efforts consist of partnering with both trained volunteers and partnering with organizations such as churches to provide people to work on the raw labor.

With a wide-range of groups working together, they are able to tackle the most important areas necessary during rebuild, including working with those who are unable to help themselves after the storm has passed.

“We really try to focus on the people who need help more than others,” Nene said. “So for example, the elderly, physically challenged, uninsured or underinsured – people that without outside assistance, they’re going to have difficult time. We try to focus on them [first].”

Help from around the country

While organizations like Convoy of Hope do everything in their power to make sure the right people are on-site working to clean up, a major part of hurricane relief comes with the help of those who volunteer out of their own goodwill.

One company that took matters into their own hands was the international moving company TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®. Being a moving company, they already had the necessary equipment to transport goods with their moving trucks, and the Pensacola (FL) and Mobile (AL) took matters into their own hands by collecting donations from various churches, schools, radio station, and sports teams.

“When we finished, we had over 80 pallets sorted and ready for shipment to Texas,” said Greg Micklos, TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® Pensacola franchisee. “[The idea of] ‘Truck4Texas’ quickly turned into ‘Trucks4Texas’ very rapidly. I called on multiple franchises to help, and we got it! With Mobile offering a couple of trucks, we set out for Victoria, TX, and met up with our Home Office Executive Team at the Convoy of Hope relief site.”

The TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® locations didn’t stop with their assistance in Texas, either. As the destruction began to take place in Florida, they quickly began collecting supplies to help the Sunshine State. Three trucks from the Pensacola franchises and one from the Orlando franchise were able to deliver over 30 pallets of water to the Convoy of Hope collection site in Florida.

It is a testament to the company culture on display at TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®, and showed how their commitment to giving back in their communities can really make a difference in the lives’ of others.

“It just made sense to do,” said TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® Mobile General Manger Billy Stovall. “In retrospect, it’s a reflection on the TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® brand. When a company and the people working share the same common core values, great things happen, and this just the latest example.”

How to get involved and make a difference

While companies like this can be on-site doing work to help, not everyone has the ability to access affected areas and make a difference. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone doesn’t have the chance to make a difference.

“The best thing people can do from home is to just go online and make some kind of financial contribution,” Nene said. “Those financial gifts are extremely important, because they are what power the equipment and the man power that helps with relief.”

According to Nene, although the donation of resources like food and water are helpful, the time and logistics required to get these donations to the right places ends up costing too much. Cash donations can be done online, and can be placed in the right hands to be distributed effectively.

For those looking to make a donation, visit websites like Convoy of Hope, Red Cross, UNICEF, and various GoFundMe accounts to ensure you’re making donations to reputable organizations.

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